New blog

August 29th, 2011

Yep, I’m splitting off my Cairo experiences into another blog: Here’s to hoping it’s not so much twaddle.

Popularity: 8% [?]

Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here

August 25th, 2011

The following is a description of my attempt to open a bank account with HSBC Egypt:

I enter the branch and find about three dozen bored customers calmly waiting for their number to be called. Where to obtain a number is non-obvious, so I hang around waiting for someone to finish at the desk closest to the door. After five minutes of standing dumbly, I hear a woman’s voice behind me say in English, “Can I help you, sir?”

“Ah, yes! I would like to open an account here.”

The woman, in her early 30s, I guess, furrows her brow and says, “Hmm. Ok, please wait a minute.”

I sit down and join the gathered, immobile Egyptians. The woman returns and asks for my passport. She disappears and I’m left alone for several minutes staring at the pretty tellers processing the masses.

The woman returns again and asks, in front of the entire waiting room, “How much will you be depositing today?” I say quietly, “About $800.” “$800,000″ she says loudly. “No problem.” I had no bag. Where the hell did she think I was stashing over three quarters of a million dollars on me?

I correct her. She says, “Well, you know, we require a minimum of $2,000 in an account. Will you be able to do that?”

“Yes. But I’ll need to transfer money from my US bank.”

“But you will be able to maintain that, yes?”

“Um, yes.”

“Please follow me.” She leads me to a desk in the back of the large room. I realize she thinks I want to open an account in US dollars, so I tell her that I’m a student at the AUC and that I’m just looking to open an account in Egyptian pounds.

“Egyptian pounds?” She looks worried. “But, why?”

“Because I now live in Egypt and want to pay bills here.”

“What sort of bills?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Rent, tuition…”

“But you can do those in cash here. Egyptians work mostly in cash.”

“Yes, but I would also like to open a cell phone account and they require a bank account.”

“I see. Well, you will need to maintain at least 5,000 Egyptian pounds in this bank account. Will you be able to do that?”

This is getting annoying. “Seeing as it’s considerably less than the $2,000 I would have been able to maintain in a US dollar account, then yes.”

“Hmm. So you have Egyptian pounds with you today?”

“No, I would like to exchange my dollars for pounds and deposit them.”

“Oh! I wouldn’t do that! We don’t give a very good exchange rate here.”

“What’s the rate?”

“I don’t know. But I know it’s much better outside the bank.”

“Can you suggest a place where I will get a better rate?”

“No, I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

Despite all this, I decide to proceed with opening the account. I defer depositing my money so I can find a better exchange rate. I tell her this and she warns me that there is a 40 pound fee per month for each time my account is under 5,000 pounds.

“When will this fee occur?”

“I don’t know! The system does it! Only the system knows!”

“So I have to deposit my money today?”

“No, no. You can do it later.”

“Good,” I say. “I’ll come back tomorrow.”

“We’re closed tomorrow.”

“OK. I’ll come Saturday.”

“We’re closed Saturday. It’s our weekend.”

“Sunday it is.”

She hands me a letter “welcoming” me to HSBC. At the bottom of the letter it says I will receive a copy of all the documents I signed stating fees, conditions, etc. I ask her for these copies.

“What do you mean?” she asks.

“This letter states I will get copies of everything.”

“What? Really?” She takes the letter and looks at it. “No, no. This letter is the documents [sic] it’s talking about.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, yes it is.”

We go back and forth about the meaning of the sentence. It’s only when we reach abstract opinions on the need for self-referential documents to exist that I give up. I’m returning on Sunday to close the account. Sure, I’m losing the 40 pound account opening fee, but if it’s this much hassle just to give them my cash, just imagine how hard it will be to get it back.

Welcome to Egypt.

Popularity: 23% [?]

Just Say “No”

April 2nd, 2011

Scene: Atlantic Avenue and Court Street, 11 p.m. Our Hero emerges from work and finishes making plans by phone with friends.

(Three black youths enter, stage right)

Black Youth 1: Let’s get that n____r!

Black Youth 2: Yeah, get him!

Black Youth 3: Get that n_____r!

Read the rest of this entry »

Popularity: 21% [?]

Advice to a Young Writer

March 30th, 2011

Caveat: I am a terrible writer. I am also a bastard.

Dear _____,

After reading your story, I’ll give you some blunt advice. Your story needs to be re-written. It feels like a first draft and is not ready for publishing. That said, it’s not unsalvageable. Here are a few things you need to do:

Read the rest of this entry »

Popularity: 18% [?]

What, me worry?

January 28th, 2011

But seriously, good luck to everyone in Egypt, police and civilian alike.

Popularity: 20% [?]

Excise Taxonomy

January 12th, 2011

Mozilla’s highlight and right-click search is an indispensable part of my browsing. When I’m reading text and I come across a strange word or reference that’s way over my head, I right-click, search it in a new tab, learn what I need, then jump right back to what I was reading.

To my dismay the New York Time‘s blocks this functionality with a nasty little ToolTip script that forces you to research highlighted words with there terrible meta-definition system (in a pop-up, no less!). This script also blocks the ability to copy-and-paste text; probably a paranoid reaction by the Times that a blogger, heaven forbid, may want to blockquote some text from an article.

After a bit of digging around in the page source, I found the offending scripts and excised them with AdBlock using these rules:



Light testing shows these rules don’t break any other site functionality.

On a side note, when I first sought a solution, I searched Google for “new york times copy paste script,” which brought up Free Copy & Paste JavaScripts and other Scripts as a first hit, from, which is owned by the New York Times company. At least one of their branches doesn’t fear basic information sharing.

Popularity: 20% [?]

Customer Interaction OTD: Vietnam

January 10th, 2011

Scene: The Frozen Food Aisle. Our Hero is stocking frozen cereal

Enter a Middle-Aged Man in Army Coat

Do you have any just regular plain waffles?

Nope. Just the gluten-free ones.

Jesus! What the hell did people do twenty years ago? Gluten-free. Cage-free eggs. (Gestures to the dairy section) They’re showing mercy to chickens. When I was in Vietnam, we killed people; we didn’t show any mercy.

Yes, but they were technically free-range.

(Laughs) Yeah. (Exits)

(To himself) I need a new job.

Popularity: 21% [?]

Stretch 2

December 14th, 2010

Hey, kids, if you haven’t heard, my buddy Dave Colon is putting out issue 2 of Stretch magazine, his own home-grown literary mag. Yours truly has submitted an original piece of terrible fiction, along with a few other Trader Joe’s writers.

We’re holding a launch party on Thursday, December 16th at WORD in Greenpoint at 7 p.m. Free beer, free readings, and free copies of the magazine. Come on by and check it out if your in the borough.

Popularity: 23% [?]

Ruffled Feathers

December 10th, 2010

Here’s a bizarre example of big-media fear of internet sharing:

This error message pops up on an embedded a video of ducks being knocked over by the wind accompanied (inexplicably) by Nas’ Hate Me Now. Sony is cool with you watching ducklings in distress while listening to low-grade rap as long as it’s not outside of the YouTube.

I can’t help but imagine an intern in a gray cubicle mulling over whether this video should be embeddable or not.

As seen on

Popularity: 14% [?]

Enter Title Here

December 7th, 2010

Here’s where I prepare a topic sentence to introduce an entire paragraph leading up to an obscure subject. Here’s where I talk about how long I’ve been in the blog game. Here’s where I talk about my experiences that everyone has had and I know can certainly relate. Here’s where I mention how what I’m about to talk about has never been encountered by mankind and I’m the first to notice it. Here’s where I use an Oxford Comma to vary, expand, and complicate my sentence structure.

Read the rest of this entry »

Popularity: 28% [?]